An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for May, 2009

Competition Time: Win “How to Build Max Performance 4g63t Engines”

Posted By Dave on May 26th, 2009


You may recall a few weeks ago I wrote a review of the excellent book, How to Build Max Performance Mitsubishi 4g63t Engines by Robert Bowen.  I loved the book and now it’s time for you to love it too!  Yes, it’s a first on Big in Japan and it’s competition time.  I am giving away my copy of this book to one lucky website reader.  Whether you own a DSM, an Evo up to the Evo IX or anything else with a 4G63t engine in, this book is an invaluable resource on figuring out an upgrade path for your car and getting the best performance out of it.  Entering the competition is simple: just tell me in 50 words or less why you should win the book.  Write your answer as a comment below and I will choose the best answer.

The winner will get the book sent to them from Japan.  The deadline for this competition is June 12th so get your thinking caps on and get posting!  Good luck to everyone who enters 🙂

Engine Rebuild Update: All Pistons Getting Changed

Posted By Dave on May 25th, 2009

A few developments on the old Evo engine rebuild front which have happened over the past couple of days or so.  First of all, after reporting that I might have to resort to throwing in a used piston from my other 4G63 engine, I found out that someone had a brand new set of Evo I/II pistons that he had mistakenly ordered, and that I could check them out to see if they would work.  Picked them up on Saturday and on Saturday evening I finally managed to drop my oil pan and remove piston number 3.  I think the actual removal of the piston has been the easiest thing I have done on the car so far in terms of this engine disassembly.

I have to say, the damage was pretty impressive once the piston was out.  There was a crack so big and deep in the piston that you could actually see through it!  Take a look at it below.

Posted in Cars

A Lead on the Cause of my Engine Dying

Posted By Dave on May 20th, 2009

Been doing a bit of thinking, posting on internet forums and researching engines over the past few days, trying to find out what actually caused my engine to die on me what seems like an age ago.  Might have found a lead on it, courtesy of what a couple of people said (including probably the most knowledgeable non-Japanese car guy in Okinawa).

Only one piston had melted in my engine and had signs of knock/detonation.  the other pistons looked absolutely fine which might lead you to believe that something went wrong in the cylinder.  The valves on the head look in good condition so we looked at what causes detonation in just one cylinder.  The answer could be a lack of fuel.  Running lean can cause knock and if a fuel injector was blocked by something then it would make that cylinder very lean for a split second.  That could still be enough for the piston to melt.

So to be on the safe side I’ve sent the injector that goes to number 3 cylinder off to Fuel Injector Clinic in the States to be flow tested and checked out.  Yesterday I also replaced the fuel filter, and it looks like the one that was in there before had been in a very long time.  Strange to think that an old fuel filter could have potentially caused so much damage.

Yesterday I also set to work with some parts cleaner and a scrubbing pad at cleaning the engine block as best I could in preparation for a new headgasket to go on there.  About 30 minutes after cleaning I went down to the engine bay to take a couple of shots.  I was horrified to find that a thin layer of rust had already developed on the block and cylinder walls.  I quickly got out the WD40 and doused everything in it before putting a towel over it all.  I’ll repeat the process today and try to keep everything lubricated.  The rainy season couldn’t have come at a worse time for me: 30C temperatures and 92% humidity is just a breeding ground for rust and oxidization.



Final update on the car follows a conversation with the Mitsubushi Parts Centre in Naha today.  Apparetly pistons for an early Evo are on backorder and could take up to a month to get to me.  Spectacular…  So I might have to go even cheaper than I thought and throw in a used piston either from the spare engine I have or from a friend’s Evo after he has upgraded his.  Am not amused as that was going to be the last part I had to order before I could start piecing things back together.

Will report back with a car update soon.

Posted in Cars

Engine Head Removed, Piston Damage Confirmed

Posted By Dave on May 18th, 2009

After what seems like an age (due to my lack of skills and lack of tools) we finally got the head off my dead engine today.  Didn’t look in bad shape, and even piston 3 looked ok at a glance, but then we looked a little closer and found exactly what was causing the problem.  Take a look for yourself:




Yup, it looks like the piston has melted or something to cause it to do that.  Looks like there’s around 2-3mm between the piston and the cylinder wall.  Am betting the ringlands have gone and that will be visible once the piston comes out.  Don’t know what caused the piston to go like that; maybe detonation and I didn’t notice the CEL flashing in the Okinawan sunlight, or possibly running lean for a split second if the meth didn’t start up as planned.

There also looks to be a tiny bit of scoring on the cylinder wall as you can see below, but hopefully we’ll be able to get that out with a honing tool.  It doesn’t seem too deep but will only find out when we start to hone.


Cylinder wall

So I’m going to order a new piston and rings (am going to try to just get rings for that piston but Mitsubishi only seem to want to sell a whole set of rings for 4 pistons and not for one individual piston).  There are 3 standard Mitsu sizes for pistons but I believe it’s the A-type piston that I need.  Need to do a bit more research into headgaskets as to whether I go MLS or just the standard one.  You’re all probably screaming MLS but it depends what kind of finish I can get from my head after cleaning it with some parts cleaner and Scotchbrite.  Due to the lack of machine shops on island if there are any significant marks I might even consider dropping back to a stock one for now.  They’ve held a lot of power with DSMs and would cope with a non-mirrored finish.  Plus once I’m on the road I need this to be as reliable as possible until I find out whether my future is in Japan or not.

Will report back when I’ve any more news but will probably be in a week or 2 when the transfer case is dropped and the piston pulled out.

Engine block

Posted in Cars

May 15th is Reversion Day in Okinawa; Protests Planned

Posted By Dave on May 14th, 2009

Tomorrow, May 15th, marks the 38th anniversary of Reversion Day in Okinawa, the day that control of Okinawa was handed back over to the Japanese from the US.  There are lots of demonstrations and protests planned for tomorrow (think the right-wing groups send down a lot of people from the mainland for these events) around the bases in central Okinawa but which may stretch as far south as Naha.  Traffic on the 58 could possibly be backed up more than normal if any protests move over there and don’t be surprised to see plenty of the blacked out uyoku dantai (right-wing extremist) vans driving around blasting the nationalistic music out at ungodly volumes.  And finally, expect more of the annoying kids on bikes riding up the 58 in the evening at about 20kph with the police doing nothing to stop them (times like these make me really wish the Evo was back on the road).

Just thought I’d let you know.  Please pass the word on to anyone living in Okinawa who might be affected by these demonstrations.

J-government Approves US Marines Transfer… but will they go?

Posted By Dave on May 13th, 2009

The much talked about relocation of US Marines from Okinawa has taken another small but significant step today, with the Japanese government approving the plan to transfer some of the Marines from the Ryukyu islands to Guam by 2014.  This, from Kyodo News:

The Japanese Diet officially endorsed an accord on Wednesday that commits Japan and the United States to following through on the planned transfer of U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014. Although the opposition-controlled House of Councillors voted it down in the morning, parliament backed the accord later in the day in line with the constitutional superiority of the House of Representatives, which has already given its approval.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties opposed the measure in Wednesday’s vote, citing its vague cost breakdown and its ties to a controversial project to relocate a Marine airfield within Japan’s southernmost island. The accord gives a legal basis to the 2006 Japan-U.S. agreement on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, commonly referred to as the ‘‘road map,’’ which Tokyo and Washington say is meant to reduce burdens on communities near U.S. bases.

It stipulates that 8,000 servicemen and women in the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and their 9,000 dependents will be moved from Okinawa to Guam by 2014, while legally obligating Tokyo to spend up to $2.8 billion on infrastructure projects on the U.S. territory in the Pacific.

The accord also ties the project in with the relocation of facilities at the Marines’ Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the shores of Nago on Okinawa, saying that the Guam transfer depends on progress made in the latter’s relocation.

The planned transfer of the 8,000 Marines refers to a reduction in the current ceiling for Marine deployment in the prefecture from 18,000 to 10,000, not a reduction in the actual number of Marines stationed there by 8,000, government officials said during Diet deliberations on the legislation.

In a related move, the U.S. Department of Defense last week requested $378 million in budgetary spending for fiscal 2010 to push for the relocation of the Marines to Guam—the first such request the department has made to realize the specifics in the agreement.

Mentioned this to a couple of my friends in the military here in Okinawa and their first reaction was one of amusement.  The Japanese government should “prepare for that timeline to not be met” was one comment.  Some think it’s going to take much longer than that while others reckon it just won’t happen in the forseeable future and this has just been signed to shut up the Japanese government’s talks about it.

An interesting aspect of it I read was the part talking about this reduction not necessarily being a reduction in numbers, but in the capacity of Marines that could be stationed in Okinawa at one time.  Although this article (as is often the case with Kyodo News released reports) is fairly contradictory.  It initially states that 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents will move to Guam by 2014, but then two paragraphs further down states that it will not be a reduction in numbers of actual Marines there.

One other point and I’m sure one that won’t be reported too much in the majority of the Japanese mainstream media is the amount that Japan will have to pay as part of this relocation.  Some people complain about the US military having a presence in Japan, but whether they would want their government to pay almost $3bn to move some of them away is another matter entirely.

I think anyone who is expecting the US military presence to decrease significantly in Okinawa over the next 5 years is in for a bit of a shock.  The numbers might decrease by one or two thousand, but I think that the chances of potentially moving 17,000 active servicemembers and dependents to Guam within 5 years are very slim at best.  Anyone think any different?

Back to Job Hunting

Posted By Dave on May 8th, 2009

A bizarre turn of events this lunchtime.  Got a call while I was teaching by the owner of the English school I had started the part-time job at a few weeks ago.  Called him back during my lunchbreak to be told that they didn’t need an English teacher, and would I return the car that I had borrowed from his brother either tonight or tomorrow morning.  Bit of a turn-up for the books as that was going pretty well from what I could gather.  Suppose it means my resources can go into where it should be at the time being: teaching at my current school and securing full-time employment beyond August.  Sent in my application to one of the military dive shops here in Okinawa, so hopefully will get something out of them.  If not, I’ll keep on looking as I’ve heard some of the local boards of education might have openings free from August, but they are waiting until really late to announce them.

Gordon Brown Nazi photo

Posted By Dave on May 8th, 2009

I usually stay away from things outside of Japan unless they really interest me, but I saw this photo and it made me smile a little wider than normal and I thought some of you would get a rise out of it too.  According to BBC picture editor Phil Coomes’ blog, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has recently hired a woman called Nicola Burdett and given her the task of making sure that the PM does not appear in any embarrassing photos.  But it looks like isn’t doing her job too well, with the PM looking like a fully paid-up member of the Nazi party!

Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched Valkyrie at the cinema, or have seen a few WWII documentaries recently, but this picture is an absolute gem I think, especially with the UK in the current climate socially, politically and economically.  With the UK possessing 25% of the world’s CCTV cameras, policing tactics getting more heavy-handed (an example being the potential manslaughter case being brought against the police officer involved in the death of a newspaper seller during the recent G20 conference), and the government being seen as more dictatorial than ever, then maybe this picture is more appropriate than it first appears.

Here in Japan, North Korea continues to make Taro Aso’s popularity rise.  Should be noted that the less he says and does, the more popular he becomes.  His popularity has just risen over 25% in the past week, making his attempt at becoming the least popular leader ever in a democracy in tatters.  He’s really going to have to pull something out of the hat to get that mantle before the election in September, but if anyone can do it, I feel he can.

Google vs Japan’s Tainted Past

Posted By Dave on May 7th, 2009

Is Japan heading into a battle with Google once again?  This is a story I’d normally leave to the excellent NewzJapan site, but since it’s not been posted up there I thought I’d bring it up here.  Google’s attempts to make headway in Japan seems to be a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of process.  Streetview was welcomed initially, but then came under huge scrutiny due to Japan’s hugely strict privacy rights (a right which seems only to be slackened when an alleged offender of a crime is in the US armed forces, and then it’s fair game).  But this time it’s Google Earth’s custom maps that have come under attack.

For those of you living under a rock, Google Earth shows mapping of the world in huge detail (scary detail in some parts), and while it was popular when it first came out, it has lost a lot of its appeal.  For those of you with Google Earth installed, when did you last use it?  So, Google Streetview was introduced which brought users back somewhat, and now they are looking at historical maps of places around the world, so you can see how countries used to be.  Towards the end of last year, Google decided to put up historical maps made from detailed woodblock prints of various areas around Japan.  The maps were already available in another form online and a similar project had gone well when mapping Tokyo, so what could possibly go wrong?

The answer is “quite a lot”.  Apparently these maps are showing a side of Japan that is not often seen, and that Japan doesn’t want a lot of its own people and the outside world at large seeing.  You see, these maps show villages and areas where members of the burakumin lived.  In Japan’s old social hierarchy, the burakumin were the lowest of the low, as they dealt with death (leatherwork, digging graves etc).  They were Japanese, but were isolated from the rest of society due to the nature of their employment.  Japan’s feudal, caste-based system is long-gone, but I was surprised to read that the discrimination against people who lived in these areas or whose families originally come from these areas remain.  Currently descendents of the burakumin make up around 3 million people, or 2.4% of Japan’s population, but still they are seen as being less than other Japanese folk.  Employers have been known to hire people to check potential employees’ family history to look for any sign of them being burakumin.  Families have also done the same when determining the suitability of a spouse for their child.  Indeed, there are even reports of people who live in these neighbourhoods to be the victims of graffiti and racism.  Now you may not think that a bit of graffiti sounds like much, but in Japan grafitti is relatively unheard of and especially racial-based graffiti (outside “No base. Go home!”).

Japan trying to keep these things out of the public eye as much as possible is probably not surprising to those of you that follow Japan closely, but Japanese politicians are even going on the attack and putting Google at blame.

“If there is an incident because of these maps, and Google is just going to say ‘it’s not our fault’ or ‘it’s down to the user,’ then we have no choice but to conclude that Google’s system itself is a form of prejudice,” said Toru Matsuoka, a member of Japan’s upper house of parliament.

This is yet another case of Japan trying to keep its own dirty laundry kept well out of the public eye, and criticising anyone who goes looking for the truth, while at the same time condemning other countries for their past actions and acting like no country is purer than Japan.  What would be interesting would be to see where Okinawans sit in relation to the burakumin; Okinawans are very low on the pecking order of people in Japan, but are they higher than the burakumin?

No Peace Boat for me

Posted By Dave on May 6th, 2009

Really haven’t been making posts on here for a while, and for that I apologise.  First of all, my laptop at work has decided to run slower than time itself, and even accessing the internet seems to be too difficult for it at the moment.  And then out of work I’ve been busy with my car, better half, other things.  None of those are good reasons though and I’ll endeavour to write more.

No surprises but last Saturday I received a rejection from Peace Boat/the GET Programme (the teaching arm of Peace Boat) following my interview and demonstration class the week before.  Really wasn’t surprised, although not because of the calibre of people there.  I think everyone had decent teaching experience and qualifications, but my demonstration class was a bit of a failure.  Don’t know what happened as it was planned well and had gone well in practice, but then when it came to it nothing seemed to work, and I could tell that from the first minute with the class.  Now in a normal class, if you can see an activity isn’t working, you bring it to an end as soon as possible and move onto the next one or modify what you will do next for the class.  When you only have 10 minutes  to show what you can do, that just isn’t possible.  I thought I might have had a chance as I managed to tell the interviewers I was well aware the demonstration class I showed them was pretty bad and why I thought it was, but alas it wasn’t enough.

On the plus side, a teacher from Naha Kokusai High School, and someone who arrived at the same time as me in Okinawa, will be going on the Peace Boat’s 67th voyage.  He’s a good guy and I’m sure he’s going to have the time of his life on there.  For me it’s back to the drawing board and my main task of finding further work in Okinawa.  I might have a bit of luck with the dive instructing, as one military dive shop has asked me to submit an application to them.  We’ll have to see what comes of that though.  Told the family about my rejection and my folks brought up an interesting point. I think it’s the first time I’ve interviewed for a job or position and not been offered the place.  So I suppose it’s not a bad success rate in 28 years of applying for things.

So good luck to everyone who’s going on the 67th voyage at the end of July.  If you happen to come across this page on your travels on the net and are going on that voyage, leave a comment and let me know!

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